NEL aims for extra judicial deal in natural gas pipeline route dispute
The pipeline consortium building Germany's Norddeutsche Erdgasleitung (NEL), a link to the newly built Nord Stream pipeline, aims to reach an out-of-court agreement with the two German cities and several citizens whose complaints have led to a temporary halt to construction earlier this year, shareholder E.ON Ruhrgas said on Thursday.
Should the current talks between the consortium and the plaintiffs fail to come to an amicable solution, E.ON said it expects to start a new permission process in early 2012. Over the past months, the consortium has worked out a possible alternative route for the pipeline.
As reported in July, a new permission process would take at least an additional nine months, delaying the project by up to a year (see ESGM 22 July 2011). However, the company on Thursday declined to comment on the likelihood of this scenario.
Once completed, NEL will have a capacity to flow 20 billion cubic metres/year and is intended to transport Nord Stream gas from Russia to customers in Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and the UK. It was originally set to be commissioned this autumn when the first Russian gas arrived in Germany through the Baltic Sea.
In July, Germany's higher administrative court in Lüneburg temporarily stopped construction of the pipeline, accepting the complaints made by two German cities and several citizens who said the pipeline was being laid too close to a residential area.
The court agreed with the plaintiffs' security concerns, saying Lower Saxony's state authorities should not have approved the current construction plans, which foresee the pipeline running as close as 30m to some private houses and public institutions, such as schools. The judges recommended a minimum distance of 350m between the pipelines and all buildings in question, calling on the project partners and the regional authority to work out new construction plans.
NEL will run from the point where Nord Stream beaches at Lubmin, near Greifswald, to Rehden in Lower Saxony, stretching more than 440km to the west. Apart from Germany's E.ON Ruhrgas, which hold 10% in the pipeline, project shareholders are Germany-based Wintershall-Gazprom subsidiary WINGAS (51%), Belgian Fluxys (19%) and Dutch Gasunie (20%). JR
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